Clare direct provision residents in 'desperate situation' and considering hunger strike

Clare direct provision residents in 'desperate situation' and considering hunger strike
Images taken from inside the Central Hostel in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.

A west Clare support group for asylum seekers has warned that 13 men in emergency accommodation in Miltown Malbay are in “such a desperate situation” that they may opt for a hunger strike.

The 13 men wrote a collective letter to justice minister Helen McEntee and children's minister for Roderic O’Gorman almost a month ago, but have to date received no response, other than an acknowledgement.

“We ask please, we are tired. We can become crazy here. Please see some way to transfer us to a better place...” the men stated in their letter of July 10, which was read out in the Seanad by Green Party senator Róisín Garvey on July 30.

Although there have been no reported cases of Covid-19 in the men’s accommodation, the Miltown Malbay Welcome Group says that their physical and mental health is at “constant risk” due to conditions under which they are living.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) reported on Wednesday that there have been 21 outbreaks in direct provision centres, involving 235 cases, with five of the outbreaks still open, and that 47 new cases and four new clusters in direct provision were notified in the past week.

The group has called for Ms McEntee's “immediate intervention” to move the men to “suitable accommodation where they have access to the supports they need”, and where they can “adhere to best practice on social distancing and other precautions against the spread of Covid-19”.#

The Central Hostel ran as a bar and a tourist hostel in Miltown Malbay before it was contracted by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) — an office of the Department of Justice and Equality — as a temporary measure in May 2019.

Support group spokeswoman Áine Rynne said in a statement that “following five months of attempts to raise this issue through all official channels and avenues ... not one single action has been taken by the Department of Justice to improve the situation”.

“We are left to wonder if it will be necessary for the men to embark on an action such as the hunger strike which commenced in Caherciveen, Co Kerry — surely this is not how the Irish State wishes to conduct its business?” the statement reads.

Residents had started a hunger strike last week at the Skellig Star, Caherciveen, in protest at conditions at the centre before suspending the strike when commitments were made to move them permanently.

The Department of Justice said its officials had previously visited the premises in Miltown Malbay and had spoken with residents via online clinics, and it was "satisfied that the premises is clean, safe, and meeting the needs of residents".

The department said "concerns most recently raised by residents in The Central Hotel, Milltown Malbay will be fully investigated ... as a matter of priority to assess how best they can be addressed", and "any resolutions required will be implemented as quickly as possible".

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